The Cincinnati Reds blew the transition from contender to rebuilder.
How are they handling the trip back from loser to contender?
Despite the Reds’ not being able to find a buyer for Matt Harvey at the trade deadline, I am cautiously optimistic.
President of baseball operations Dick Williams said the right things Monday night in regards to wanting to win sooner rather than later.
<<READ MORE: Williams explains trading Adam Duvall
There remain questions about how exactly they might do that, of course.
For sure the Reds will head into 2019 with a lot of positions in good and in some cases great shape.
Doesn’t it feel like things could have gone better, though?
The Reds mostly failed to get suitable value for their best assets, most notably Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman, though they partially offset those failures by getting useful players for Todd Frazier, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon.
Maybe it’s just a matter of expectations.
If the measuring stick is the Cubs, they’ve fallen woefully short.
However, that’s not the end of the world.
The Reds can still be contenders long and short term if a few things go right, which is just about all a small-market team can ask for these days.
While matching what the Cubs – who have a young lineup full of monsters they can’t even get on the field at once – did in their rebuild would have been ideal, maybe a better example is the Royals, who were bad for a lot longer before winning two pennants and a World Series with a solid-if-not-spectacular roster.
What’s the difference?
Well, the Royals of course have already bottomed out again while the Cubs figure to be in the running for the NL pennant for years to come after cashing in assets for premium prospects, drafting well and finding some gems on the international market.
The Reds have done the latter two things, and some of the payoff (Nick Senzel, Hunter Greene, Taylor Trammell, Jose Siri) is yet to come.
» RELATED: First-round pick promoted to Dayton
Just about every spot in the everyday lineup is spoken for in 2019, with a few good dilemmas left to take care of.
Is the outfield set with Billy Hamilton, Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler?
Where will Senzel play when he is healthy next spring?
Where will Scooter Gennett play? He is blocking Senzel’s perceived best position, which means the Lebanon Launcher might need one of those spots owned by Schebler and Winker.
Can they get better at shortstop?
How long will Joey Votto keep doing his thing at first base?
The biggest question, of course, is the rotation.
>>RELATED: Are these Reds being built in reverse?
The Reds’ lone deadline deal – trading Adam Duvall to the Braves, which opened one of those aforementioned outfield spots – brought back a former pitching prospect who in a small sample size has been a middling major leaguer.
(They also received a pair of players who are likely best in supporting roles.)
That Lucas Sims, the right-handed pitcher who was once Atlanta’s top prospect, was appealing to the Reds says something about the state of the Cincinnati rotation.
Putting aside the truism an organization can never have enough arms, the Reds should not have needed Sims by now. They’ve run about a dozen pitching prospects through the rotation over the past two-plus seasons and yet the best ERA among starters this season belongs to… Matt Harvey.
Yes, the erstwhile Mets ace they took a flyer on in May has outperformed all of their highly regarded young arms despite not being much like his old dominant self.
That says more about them than Harvey, who still isn’t likely to be in a Reds uniform next season unless he comes cheaper than expected.
Then again, maybe by December the club will have determined he is worth a big investment (and/or maybe the market will be as soft as it was last winter, but that’s a big “if”).
That’s one of those dilemmas that is not so nice, one created by not just his renaissance but the continued struggles of the other starters.
They have played winning baseball over the last two months despite the rotation continuing to disappoint. They’re also still in last place despite the good vibes Williams spoke of.
See, it could be better, right?
But of course it could be worse.